28 Aug 2020

28 Aug 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal AMT and is expected to appear here in due course.

Intercomparison and characterization of 23 Aethalometers under laboratory and ambient air conditions: Procedures and unit-to-unit variabilities

Andrea Cuesta-Mosquera1, Griša Močnik2,3,4, Luka Drinovec2,3, Thomas Müller1, Sascha Pfeifer1, María Cruz Minguillón5, Briel Björn6, Paul Buckley7, Vadimas Dudoitis8, Javier Fernández-García9, María Fernández-Amado10, Joel Ferreira De Brito11, Harald Flentje6, Eimear Heffernan7, Nikolaos Kalivitis12, Athina-Cerise Kalogridis13, Hannes Keernik14,15, Luminita Marmureanu16, Krista Luoma17, Angela Marinoni18, Michael Pikridas19, Gerhard Schauer20, Norbert Serfozo21, Henri Servomaa22, Gloria Titos23, Jesús Yus-Díez5,24, Natalia Zioła25, and Alfred Wiedensohler1 Andrea Cuesta-Mosquera et al.
  • 1Department of Experimental Aerosol and Cloud Microphysics, Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, Leipzig, 04318, Germany
  • 2Department of Condensed Matter Physics, Jožef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana, 1000, Slovenia
  • 3Haze Instruments d.o.o., Ljubljana, 1000, Slovenia
  • 4Center for Atmospheric Research, University of Nova Gorica, Ajdovščina, 5270, Slovenia
  • 5Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA), CSIC, Barcelona, 08034, Spain
  • 6Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD), Meteorologisches Observatorium Hohenpeißenberg, Hohenpeißenberg, 82383, Germany
  • 7School of Chemistry, Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry & Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork, Cork, T23 XE10, Ireland
  • 8Department of Environmental Research, SRI Center for Physical Sciences and Technology, Vilnius, 10257, Lithuania
  • 9Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas, Madrid, 28040, Spain
  • 10Instituto Universitario de Medio Ambiente-Grupo QANAP, Universidade da Coruña, Oleiros, 15179, Spain
  • 11IMT Lille Douai, Université de Lille, Lille, 59508, France
  • 12Department of Chemistry, University of Crete, Heraklion, 70013, Greece
  • 13Environmental Radioactivity Laboratory, National Centre of Scientific Research, Aghia Paraskevi, 15310, Greece
  • 14Air Quality Management Department, Estonian Environmental Research Centre, Tallinn, 10617, Estonia
  • 15Department of Software Sciences, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, 12616, Estonia
  • 16National Institute of Research and Development for Optoelectronics, Măgurele, 077125, Romania
  • 17Institution for Atmospheric and Earth System Research, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, 00014, Finland
  • 18Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, National Research Council of Italy, Bologna, 40129, Italy
  • 19Climate, Atmosphere Research Centre (CARE-C), The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, 1645, Cyprus
  • 20Sonnblick Observatory, Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG), Salzburg, 5020, Austria
  • 21Global Change Research Institute, Brno, 60300, Czech Republic
  • 22Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, FI-00101, Finland
  • 23Andalusian Institute for Earth System Research, University of Granada, Granada, 18006, Spain
  • 24Departament of Applied Physics – Meteorology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, 08028, Spain
  • 25Department of Air Protection, Institute of Environmental Engineering of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Zabrze, 41-819, Poland

Abstract. Airborne black carbon particles are monitored in many networks to quantify its impact on air quality and climate. Given its importance, measurements of black carbon mass concentrations must be conducted with instruments operating in a quality checked and assured conditions to generate reliable and comparable data. According to WMO (World Meteorological Organization) and GAW (Global Atmosphere Watch), intercomparisons against a reference instrument are a crucial part of quality controls in measurement activities (WMO, 2016).

The WMO-GAW World Calibration Centre for Aerosol Physics (WCCAP) carried out several instrumental comparison and calibration workshops of absorption photometers in the frame of ACTRIS (European Research Infrastructure for the observation of Aerosol, Clouds and Trace Gases) and the COST Action COLOSSAL (Chemical On-Line cOmpoSition and Source Apportionment of fine aerosoL) in January and June 2019.

The experiments were conducted to intercompare filter-based particle light absorption photometers, specifically aethalometers AE33 (Magee Scientific), which are operated by research institutions, universities or governmental entities across Europe. The objective was to investigate the individual performance of 23 instruments and their comparability, using synthetic aerosols in a controlled environment and ambient air from the Leipzig urban background. The methodology and results of the intercomparison are presented in this work.

The observed instrument-to-instrument variabilities showed differences that were evaluated, before maintenance activities (average deviation from total least square regression: 1.1 %, range: −6 % to 16 %, for soot measurements; average deviation: 0.3 %, range: −14 % to 19 %, for nigrosin measurements), and after they were carried out (average deviation: 0.4 %, range: −8 % to 14 %, for soot measurements; average deviation: 1.1 %, range: −15 % to 11 %, for nigrosin measurements). The deviations are in most of the cases explained by the filter material, the total particles load on the filter, the performance of the flow systems and previous flow check and calibrations carried out with non-calibrated devices.

The results of this intensive intercomparison activity show that relatively small unit-to-unit uncertainties of AE33-based particle light absorbing measurements are possible with functioning instruments. It is crucial to follow the guidelines for maintenance activities and the use of the proper filter tape in the AE33 to assure high quality and comparable BC measurements among international observational networks.

Andrea Cuesta-Mosquera et al.

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Andrea Cuesta-Mosquera et al.

Andrea Cuesta-Mosquera et al.


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Short summary
Twenty-three aethalometers from European monitoring networks of black carbon mass concentrations, were characterized and intercompared. Measurements of black carbon must be conducted with instruments operating in a quality checked and assured conditions to generate reliable and comparable data. The influence of different aerosol sources, maintenance activities, and the filter material, in the instrumental variabilities were investigated. Good agreements and in general low deviations were seen.